The creation of a task force to set standards for slab-house construction and soil-stability testing is a positive step that could help prevent the type of foundation problems plaguing the Clint Miller Homes’ Maple Shade subdivision in southeast Wichita. But that’s only if the standards are meaningful — and if city inspectors enforce the new regulations.
The city and the Wichita Area Builders Association are forming the task force in response to a series of Eagle articles uncovering problems with the buckling foundations and cracking walls in at least five houses in the development at 2022 S. Webb Road. The houses were built on fill dirt and clay that swelled and contracted with moisture in an area with poor drainage.
The city currently doesn’t have codes addressing how stable soil needs to be, and there are no requirements for soil-compaction testing on residential building sites in Wichita. The task force will seek to develop such codes and recommend construction techniques.
In addition to setting new standards, the city needs review the work of its Office of Central Inspection to ensure the office is enforcing rules and responding to complaints. Some Maple Shade homeowners contend that the office was unresponsive to their problems until The Eagle got involved, and spot checks of the foundation of one home found apparent violations of the city’s current codes.
New codes won’t do much good if they aren’t enforced.